Grounded – by Zachary Newbegin

I am released as I push through my shell and out into open space. I feel as light as a feather. I struggle to open my eyes but eventually do. In front of me my mother appears.

I am falling; help me. Please, anything: help. My body stops and I am surrounded. Where am I? People are walking over me, looking down on my dissimilarity to them. The ubiquitous, habitual nature to soar and not fall has been displaced – a nature not belonging here in this unfamiliar place, especially in the eyes of the others’. I am in pain, aching for relief from this broken state.

I am afraid, uneasy about my current surroundings. Swiftly looking around in all directions, I seek familiarity and normality; instead, people scurry around me uninterested – all histrionically observing my injured state. No person stops. I am stunned by a wave of disorientation, adrift from all sense of place and protection.

I am alone. Am I the nonentity that every person around me determines that I am? It is crucial that I leave this place now; otherwise, I may become lost in my own bareness. People are beginning to stare at me as I struggle to leave my spot of vulnerability. How can I instigate mobility when this part of me appears irreversibly broken? I need to determine how I will move and leave this overwhelming place.

Blinding light illuminates the space around my body harshly and adorned straight-edged walls box me in. I feel trapped; I am suffocating in a place that is excessively modernist and, through my perspective, is void of any familiarity or meaning. I have not been here before. As I look around, myriad transparent, reflective surfaces echo my foul exterior. I am weak, vulnerable and discomfited. This cannot be real: I must be dreaming.

If this is a dream, there is no real threat to worry about. A conscious epiphany of my dream state has freed me from this unknown horrid place. I will awaken now. Awaken. Now!

Nothing? There is a second, antithetical explanation for my presence here. Am I awake, the damage that I am wearing eliciting senselessness and irrational hallucinations? I have not had hallucinations like these before, but I admit that it is a possibility. Disfigured and motionless forms stare vacantly at me from behind the reflective faces. With two arms, two legs and vacuous expressions, these inanimate forms are ironically anthropological. No one around me looks familiar. Where is my mother? I am ashamed of this animal that I am, unable to muster the strength that will allow me to escape this prison of uninviting façades.

Suddenly, the pain surges as I am thrown into a tighter, darker space. Finding myself in another inapposite place, my confusion intensifies. I must escape the incessant maze of discord – an abyss of non-identity. I look behind me and a stark, impenetrable wall looms over me: this will not be my exit. I turn back to scrutinise the rest of the space and am struck by three sets of eyes staring back in my direction. As I move towards one, it moves towards me. Frightened, I flinch. It flinches back. Perplexed, I become agitated at the sense of falseness and deceit. I repeatedly move towards and away from it, which it does too in imitation. Suddenly I realise: these eyes glaring back at me are also my own. There is something disconcerting about the other three figures in this unseen place.

What trickery or allusion is this? I am here but also three times there? This place does not feel natural or inviting, a place that will never be an approachable milieu. I am screaming, vocalising my qualms, however, no sound resonates. I am overcome by the deafening silence, divorcing any possible sense of place here. These falsified ‘me’s aren’t real; they are perverted reflections of my broken state. I need to avert my eyesight; I can no longer stand to look at myself.

I look up this time, searching desperately for a welcoming sight. Instead, futuristic buttons of light illuminate the right side of the impenetrable wall. I feel more out of place than ever.

Without warning, a blaring noise reverberates in front of my damaged state and the wall splits down the middle and opens. The light outside this confined box is blinding against the cold darkness of unfamiliarity.

Suddenly, a shadow emerges from within the light and picks up my decrepit form. I am being carried away from this place of degradation and towards the light; I am finally soaring – listlessly flying, with the wind beneath my elongated wings.

As I am carried further away from the box of no identity, my eyes adjust and focus to the new space that I have entered. I find myself back where I was beforehand, surrounded by many walking people. They are not, however, as before, walking over me. I am on parallel ground, looking into the faces of those who pass me with detectable curiosity. I look at them and they disappear. Passing through a reflective, transparent wall splitting down the centre – analogous to the impenetrable wall opening prior – I find myself outside.

Before I can appreciate the splendour of liberation, I am carried further away. I am indifferent to the non-place that I have been saved from and do not pay attention.

Eventually, I am placed into a small box no larger than four of my figure placed together. The open sky begins to perish as shadows feast on light and I find myself in total darkness.

After yelling for a long time to no avail, a feeling of out-of-placeness returns and I yield to oblivion. All sense of time and place is entirely lost from me.

Bright light floods the box and I am pulled hastily from its grasp. My eyes once again adjust to the light and I hope for something recognisable. A face materialises and I do not recognise it. I am surrounded by many others – one as sick as a dog and another as a parrot. Yelping and wailing echoes all around me. What is this place? Purgatory?

I am placed onto a flat surface and the Face moves towards me with several menacing metal objects; my breathing intensifies. I am tossed around, material wrapping around my body and underneath my appendages. My constant pain ceases and my breathing calms. The distress is terminated. Eventually, I am carried away.

 

Epilogue

I am back in the nest, capable of finally taking flight. My fixed wing has healed and there is no longer any pain. Looking towards the sky I jump and the airflow across my wings thrusts me off the ground. I am flying. I have reached the place where I belong.

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